Blu-Ray Review: Pit Stop (The Winner)

Pit Stop AV016Busted-up junker cars slamming into each other on a crazy figure eight racetrack may seem like a one-note film idea with limited appeal. But Jack Hill’s 1969 “B” movie Pit Stop makes for quite a spectacular ride for more than the crash-crazed car fiends out there. For a low-budget black and white quickie shot in the late 60’s, Hill gets some major mileage from from his cast that includes Richard (Dick) Davalos, Sid Haig, Brian Donlevy, Beverly Washburn and Ellen Burstyn.

Once again, Arrow Video brings an excellent director supervised and approved HD remaster to the table packed with bonus features that make this one a fantastic addition to any film collection. For all the high-speed action and off-track thrills, there’s a nifty little tale of a man who manages to win it all yet lose everything important by the end.

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Jem and the Holograms Trailer: Welcome To The Blonder-dome

Jem and the Holograms MPNot being a fan at all of the old cartoon and spending time watching a few too many old episodes over the last week or so makes me an easy judge of how this film will do at the box office. The answer is “terribly or worse” for a few key reasons. Reasons one and two: Based on poking around the internet and reading a few too many “totally outrageous!” comments, the older fans didn’t ask for it and the younger ones don’t really exist. That is, unless they have parents trying too hard to be their best friends and think this is a gateway to that friendship.

Cue the future news stories of kids possibly bumping off those parents in their sleep after being taken to see this turd.

It’s also perhaps somewhat sadistic (or masochistic, depending on how you angle that shoe mirror) of them if those parents dragging their tweens to this think it’ll be as “cool” as the show was only to find out they’ve been unfriended before or during the end credit roll. That’s going to be one long, looooong drive home from the multiplex is all I’m saying. (THAT said, okay, okay. I kind of liked the writing in some of the episodes, so I’ll blame the great Christy Marx and the shows other writers for making me enjoy most of those episodes, grrrr!)

Um, where was I again? Oh, yeah…

Sorry, but the whole sappy dramatic movie of the week look of this unspecta-clueless trailer screams “Lifetime quickie flick!” more than something worth paying money to sit stupefied in front of. Hell, at least the live action Josie and the Pussycats flick didn’t go for schmaltzy “realism” at all. It wasn’t a good film at all either, but it at least went down in flames winking at itself. Anyway, Hollywood has been suffering from remake-itis for decades, but this cobbling of ancient cartoons and TV shows only boomers who haven’t grown out of them yet will recall with any sort of warm nostalgia (nope, that’s not a mild case of incontinence) is getting out of hand. Ah well. This one will pop up on cable within what, eight or nine months of its theatrical release? Probably. Will I watch it? Probably not. But curiosity has drawn many to many a train wreck, so as always… we shall see.

A Little Something To Bug Me On A Monday

So, how was your holiday? Mine was dull and intentionally so. That said, I haven’t EVER been so chewed up so damn much by bugs since I was a kid and this summer was lousy for going anywhere outside and coming back with a few fresh bites. There seem to be small armies of little nippers zipping around this year to the point you’d think this was some 70’s eco-disaster flick up here and elsewhere. I actually can’t believe I’m saying this, but i can’t wait for colder weather to get here. A few chilly winds will keep the little pests and some of the bigger (human) ones away from causing so much trouble. I hope.

Back tomorrow with some actual updates.

Blu-Ray Review: Cemetery Without Crosses

Cemetery Without Crosses AV014Yet another stellar Arrow Video release through MVD Visual, Robert Hossein’s 1969 western Cemetery Without Crosses is a great, grim and gloomy slow-burner of a revenge tale that’s short on dialog but delivers its message almost flawlessly.

Hossein (who also stars in the film and co-wrote it with Claude DeSailly) makes his take on the spaghetti western a memorable one with some excellent set pieces and a mean set of twists that make the film worth repeat viewing. This is one of those films with no real “likable” characters to root for – you’re dropped into a little spot in their personal hell as an audience and get to see what happens as things play out. Par for the course, Arrow also delivers the goods when it comes to a quality HD transfer and some fine special features. Continue reading

No More Nightmares: Wes Craven (1939 – 2015)

LHotL MPThe first time I saw it in the mid-1980’s on a borrowed VHS tape that had a few other films crammed onto it, I never made it through Last House on the Left. And neither did the tape it was recorded on. During the agonizing scene where poor Phyllis is rendered gutless, the tape broke, ending my torture but making me insanely curious as to how the rest of the film would lay out. Amusingly enough, while I didn’t plan on finding out in a hurry, time has a way of speeding some things up. Not too long afterwards (okay, about four or five years later) I saw Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring and realized Wes Craven was more than a bit influenced by that classic film.

That made me go locate a beat up VHS tape another friend owned and watch it from start to finish, appreciating it far more by the finale than I did when I first saw it. Amusingly enough, I didn’t seek out Craven’s other films at all. I always seemed to be in the middle of something else when one would turn up on cable or in the case of a few others, I just decided to go to the movies and one of his films happened to be playing nearby. Some of his flicks worked better than others and a few didn’t strike me at all as all that frightening until seen again where I could dissect scenes without a chatty fraidy-cat audience screaming and talking over the better parts of the work. Continue reading

The Martian Trailer 2: Get With The Space Program, Already


The funny thing is, after I decided to recently zip through the book (it’s a great summer read, by the way) and took the longer range viewpoint I usually do, these trailers really don’t bug me at all. In a way, the filmmakers are a bit pushed and painted into the proverbial corner because being too vague means you get unfairly compared to Chris Nolan’s Interstellar (although that’s what’s been happening online anyway). On the other hand, anyone who didn’t like Prometheus and didn’t know Ridley Scott’s other, better sci-fi films might see either of the two trailers and say to themselves (or online to whomever is reading what they write) “Not THAT guy again!” or words to that effect. Rock, meet hard place. Of course, a film’s performance should be based on how well it does among those who actually see it as opposed to those who don’t and won’t that spend more time griping about it.

The Martian banner 

But so goes the modern world these days, I guess. The Martian is in theaters October 2, 2015. Go read the book at some point beforehand. Or afterwards.

The Hateful Eight: Tarantino’s 70MM Western Will Rake In More Than A Fistful of Dollars


For some reason I thought Quentin Tarantino had directed MORE than a paltry eight films in his career. But I think I was including stuff he didn’t direct directly in that number plus some TV work he’s had a hand in. Whatever. The Hateful Eight is looking fine and grim and chilly as it packs in some of the director’s favorite actors into a snowbound winter cabin and lets them chew the scenery. I’m expecting a bit of back-stabbery and gun-shootery bits with the trademark Tarantino touches wrapped up in an all new score by Ennio Morricone. As the film takes place a few years after the Civil War, I’d not expect to see any modern in-jokes here. But I’ll expect some of the characters in the film to get in references to some of their previous work.

Of course, I’m only basing that on Kurt Russell seemingly making a nod to his MacReady character from John Carpenter’s still fantastically freaky 1982 remake of The Thing. Hey, I don’t look for this stuff in trailers, folks. It. Finds. Me. I think. Anyway, The Hateful Eight is out in a limited 70MM Panavision release this Christmas Day with a wider release set for January 8th, 2016 “everywhere else”. I guess the roadshow version is for the Academy folks to check out before they get to that Oscar balloting stuff they do. I saw some fine actors doing their thing, but didn’t see anything “award winning” in that too-brief trailer. But with Tarantino films, you really need to see the whole thing before making any judgments for or against them.

The Eyes Have It (Less): Things To Come (If You’re Still Around To Read Them)

(thanks, VIDEOJAXX!)

Day four or so of the icky eye is going okay. It’s looking almost normal but I’m still not venturing too for into the outside world. I did do some shopping over the last two days, but between the black sunglasses and hand sanitizer I’d been whipping out, I’m betting I look like a really paranoid celebrity. Or a blind guy making sure there’s no evidence while stocking up on doomsday supplies.

Anyway, I have a lot of crap to yak about in a few days. Everything from the Muppet mess-up I’m annoyed and amused about to what the hell is wrong with some people and overly criticizing certain games (and their audiences). But let’s not get ahead of things. First things first, that damn eye needs to stop doing its thing and get back to normal.

Blu-Ray/DVD Review: Contamination

Contamination MVD7368BRUp until a few years back, I’d never considered Luigi Cozzi’s sci-fi and fantasy films anything more than hilariously terrible pastiches of far better films. But getting older and mellower has made me take a fresh look and appreciate them a lot more, warts and all. I’m finding that while somewhat hampered by budgetary constraints and packed with some truly laugh-worthy visual effects, there’s an earnestness and respectable amount of passion in them that makes up for most of the inadequacies.

Yes, Star Crash still makes me cringe and the two Hercules films are more overly colorful comic book reworkings gone haywire of classic mythology. But you can clearly feel the director’s intent on making movies from the heart even as they bust your gut from unintentional and intentional laughter.

Contamination, Cozzi’s 1980 gorier “homage” to Ridley Scott’s classic Alien has gotten an excellent Blu-Ray restoration thanks to Arrow Video. Not only do you get a lovely AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer in 1.85.1 widescreen, there’s a great set of old and new interviews with the director and Maurizio Guarini of Goblin (who did the film’s score) as well as a fun look at other Italian genre flicks that swiped ideas from blockbusters. As for the film itself, as I hadn’t seen it for over 30 years, it was certainly a fun and bloody trip down memory lane as well as something of a love letter to New York City where some of the establishing shots were films.
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A “B” I Need to See: Les Raisins de la Mort

The Grapes of Death MP

Poster courtesy GO SUBSCRIBE!


I’ve never seen Jean Rollin’s 1978 horror flick Les Raisins de la Mort (The Grapes of Death), but I do vaguely recall discussing the film with a friend a few years back in a conversation about foreign horror movies. I’d forgotten all about it until YouTube user Sleaze-O-Rama posted the trailer below:

(thanks, Sleaze-O-Rama!)

And now, the hunt begins for a DVD as I prefer to borrow or outright own my movies and not stream or steal them. It’s not an urgent “get” at all. But if I see this one in my travels and it’s affordable, I’ll be adding it to the library when I can.